Caring for a family member with Alzheimer’s can be, to put it mildly, a challenge. Still, you want to give a loved one the best you can, and with some patience and an understanding of why you need to do certain things in a specific way, everything becomes much more manageable. Here are a few valuable tips on how to care for a family member with Alzheimer’s.

Communicating with Alzheimer’s Victims

Communicating with a family member suffering from Alzheimer’s can be both challenging and frustrating – for both you and that family member. It is a two-fold, double-ended difficulty because it involves both the person attempting communication and the person receiving the communication, both understanding and being understood. Successful communication, then, involves the following:

  • Cutting out or at least minimizing distractions and unnecessary noise, such as the radio and TV, to enhance focus
  • Making sure you have the person’s attention before speaking and calling him by name.
  • Using simple, easily understood words and short sentences delivered in a calm, gentle tone. You should also avoid talking down to the person as if she were a small child.
  • Allowing plenty of time for responses – without getting impatient and/or interrupting
  • Using positive constructions that allow simple, brief answers like “Yes” or “No”
  • If the person is having difficulty finding the necessary words, try to gently supply the word(s) in a genuinely and obviously helpful manner.

Dealing with Mood Swings

Sudden and dramatic mood shifts and swings are fairly characteristic of Alzheimer’s sufferers. And these mood swings (sometimes accompanied by outbursts of coarse language) can be very disturbing to those on the receiving end. So the main task in positively dealing with these mood swings, which are sometimes manifested as outbursts of agitation or even aggression, is attempting to understand the cause of the mood swing/outburst.

Often, the cause is a lack of understanding or some kind of frustration. So when you’ve located the source of frustration, remain calm and, using even, measured tones, help your family member understand and work through the situation. Don’t just dismiss the outburst as an inevitable part of the disease. Instead, determine the cause, and then help your family member deal with it in a more positive fashion.

Eating Challenges

Some Alzheimer’s sufferers want to eat all the time, and others have almost no interest in eating. Making sure your family member with Alzheimer’s gets proper nutrition will require some patience and special tactics on your part. For example:

  • Again, you want a calm mealtime atmosphere and an environment free of distractions.
  • In addition, view mealtimes as opportunities for communication and social interaction. So be patient, don’t rush, and be sensitive to anxiety and its causes.
  • Provide food choices with familiar flavors, colors, and textures. But avoid providing so many choices as to introduce anxiety or confusion.
  • Provide utensils, bowls plates, and so on that are easy to use, yet promote mealtime independence as much as possible.
  • Try serving smaller portions in the form of several meals throughout the day. This will address both extremes of overeating and of hardly eating at all.
  • Encourage your family member to get plenty of fluids throughout the day, and always be aware of choking risks due to swallowing problems.

Sometimes, though, despite our best efforts, taking care of a family member with Alzheimer’s at home in no longer a viable option. For the disease progresses, and newer, more severe challenges arise. When things reach that stage, professional care in a reputable memory-care facility may be the best solution. But for your loved ones and family members, you will, understandably, want the best care available. Search our website for a memory-care facility near you.


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